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Paul Sackey scores one of a brace of tries, but it was not enough to see Wasps to victory
As Wasps v Leicester knock out games go, this was not what we've come to expect.
In the past, much physicality and much tension have been the order of the day; there has been intensity aplenty - it's been nip and tuck stuff. Today, we got open rugby, running rugby and four tries each: it was a great spectacle for the neutral, but for Wasps it was ultimately a disappointing afternoon.
The defence, usually aggressively fearsome, had more of the workmanlike about it, and though Josh Lewsey was required to make some try saving hits, there was little of the bone-shaking about Wasps tackling and this, combined with Leicester's physicality, willingness to counter ruck and ability to pinch Wasps line out at crucial times, led to the Tigers playing with by far the majority of the ball.
And though McGeechan's men had been alive to the chips and cross kicks of Tigers' fly half Andy Goode for much of the first half, when the Leicester pack kept going forward after the break their number 10 was able to pull the strings from something resembling an armchair, whilst his half back compatriot Harry Ellis plundered the blind side fruitfully as Tigers racked up three tries in the second forty to secure victory and a trip to Twickenham for the final next month.
Eoin Reddan evades Andy Goode
From kick off Leicester dominated possession for the first twenty minutes but Wasps contained them well, allowing the Tigers only an Andy Goode penalty for their efforts. Then, with Wasps first real concerted attack of the game, the forwards set up a good platform from where fly half Danny Cipriani took the ball at pace on the 22, dummied centre Dan Hipkiss and used the midfielder's moment of hesitation to power round him and score.
Goode edged Tigers back to 6-7 with a penalty shortly after - Harry Ellis's dummy and break from a maul had required Lewsey to perform some try saving heroics but a subsequent Wasps infringement under pressure gave Goode his chance. And though Tigers kept going forward from the restart it was Wasps who scored next, Eoin Reddan breaking blind from a scrum on his own 22 to sprint 40 metres before handing over to Paul Sackey to finish things off.
Goode was quick to rally however, sneaking the lead back before the break with a switch from open to blind at a scrum that appeared to catch Wasps napping as he weaved though the short side to score giving Tigers a 13-12 advantage at half time
However, Leicester's half backs really hit their straps at the start of the second half. First Ellis plundered the blind side to put Rabeni in for the Tigers second try, then Goode collected his own, perfectly weighted chip to hand Hipkiss a try under the posts.
At 27-12 it may well have been judged all over for most teams but with a quarter of the game remaining, McGeechan's men knew they had the time, the team and the self belief to get back into the game. And they did. Dave Walder, Man of the Match for the previous two weeks but losing out to Danny Cipriani for the number 10 shirt in this game, came on and with almost his first touch of the ball was making a half break that set up the platform for Wasps to begin a comeback. Leicester conceded a penalty in front of the posts, but captain Dallaglio elected for the scrum. It paid off, as Cipriani palmed Haskell's ragged offload over the back of his head for Sackey to collect and score in the corner.
Walder couldn't make the tough conversion, leaving Wasps still 27-17 adrift, but ten points in 20 minutes was do-able ' until Jordan Crane got away an excellent offload to the increasingly confident Hipkiss and, working again on the front foot, Ellis provided charging prop Martin Castrogiovanni with a scoring pass. Tigers were now 17 points ahead, and with just ten minutes remaining.
Hipkiss was at it again five minutes later, but Flutey's try saving tackle allowed Wasps to counter attack, and Sackey and Cipriani combined to score Wasps fourth, and the eighth try of the game. With 6 minutes remaining however, Tigers were too experienced an outfit to allow Wasps the possession or territory to acquire the ten points required to draw level, and so it will be Leicester who progress to defend their EDF Energy trophy at Twickenham next month, and Wasps who will now turn their focus solely to the league, a play off place and that still as yet elusive Heineken Cup qualifying place for next season.
After the game Director of Rugby, Ian McGeechan said, "They deserved it today. We weren't as smart as we normally are, and although I thought we attacked and scrummaged well today, in other aspects of the game we were second best.
"Leicester controlled the ball far better than us. They got a lot of ball in the first 20 minutes, and that probably settled them down and allowed them to get into their game. We weren't good in the contact area, and when you give Leicester that amount of ball it becomes a pretty tough ask to end up on the winning side.
"To be fair we have been pretty consistent since our internationals came back from the World Cup, and it was frustrating to have scored four tries and not come out on the winning side. We would have liked to have been in another final, but we didn't do ourselves justice today"